Media Release: Hutt Valley Benefit Education Service Trust
There are early indications that changes to invalids’ benefits mean that some people living with illness and disability are having a drop in income, without any guarantee that they will transition into work, says a Hutt Valley Benefit Advocacy Service.
Teresa Homan, Manager of the Hutt Valley Benefit Education Service Trust based at the Suzanne Aubert Centre in Silverstream, says the changes are not living up to the claims that people with disabilities will have more opportunities to move into the workforce once they are required to apply for the Supported Living Payment.
”The Ministry of Social Development’s training of health professionals has focused on telling them that living on a benefit is a health risk”, says Mrs Homan, who has worked with beneficiaries for ten years. “This and a redesigned and ambiguous medical form have resulted in medical practitioners providing medical certificates that are ambiguous and open the door for the ministry to cancel the Supported Living Payment. People are then put onto Jobseeker Support – often with an exemption from work as they still have the health condition that makes them eligible for the Supported Living Payment.”
Mrs Homan says the public explanation given for this is that the person who had been receiving the Supported Living Payment can now be progressed into full time work.
“But in reality there is no guarantee that they will ever secure full time work or, more importantly, that they will be well enough to do so,” says Mrs Homan.
“Instead the reclassification leads to an immediate income reduction of over fifty dollars per week, despite there being no change to the person’s circumstances. More importantly, no funding is put in place to provide the health assistance that is needed to see the person’s health and work prospects improve.”
Mrs Homan says doctors have been led to believe that moving beneficiaries from Supported Living Payment to Jobseeker Support will see the person going from a life lived on a benefit into work, which is better for their health. “We suspect that health professionals believe that the ministry will fund and support people with on-going health issues to manage these conditions, making work a possibility. This is not the case.”
Mrs Homan says only very basic health costs are being met. The Hutt Valley Benefit Education Service Trust is seeing people being left with no improvement to their health and with a loss in necessary income.
“The Minister has told us that the benefit reforms were about getting people into work, not about a reduction in benefit payments. The reality for a number on the Supported Living Payment is an immediate reduction in income, with no guarantee of transitioning into work or receiving any assistance to gain improved health outcomes.”